• David Author

Key battles of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars

The Battle of the Pyramids (1798)

Also known as the Battle of Embabeh, the victory was effectively a slaughter, that sealed the French conquest of Egypt as the Mamelukes were more or less destroyed. 20,000 casualties vs the French 300.

The Battle of Marango (1800)

A narrow and hard fought victory, and a disaster-turned-victory at a key moment for General Bonaparte.

It pitted 28,000 of Napoleon’s men against a slightly higher Austrian army and was later considered by Napoleon to be one of his finest triumphs. Victory helped to secure both his military and civilian authority in Paris.

Battle of Trafalgar (1805)

This famous naval battle took place at Cape Trafalgar off the south-western coast of Spain, between the British Royal Navy, led by Admiral Lord Nelson, and the fleets of France and Spain. The Royal’s Navy’s resounding victory established Britain’s naval domination but came at the cost of Lord Nelson’s life.

Battle of Austerlitz (1805)

Perhaps the most significant and decisive battle of the Napoleonic Wars, Austerlitz ranks as one of Napoleon’s greatest victories. Fought near Austerlitz in Moravia (now the Czech Republic) and also known as the “Battle of the Three Emperors”, this confrontation saw 68,000 French troops defeat nearly 90,000 combined Russian and Austrian force.

Victory for France led to the Treaty of Pressburg, which aimed to establish “peace and amity” and secured Austria’s withdrawal from the Third Coalition of countries fighting France.

Battle of Jena (1806)

The full name is Jena-Auerstädt and was fought between 122,000 French and 114,000 Prussian and Saxon armies. Napoleon’s troops decimated the Prussian army at Jena as France’s Marshal Davout defeated the main Prussian force further north at Auerstädt.

Battle of Rolica (1808)

Although not a particularly large battle, it is regarded as the first major action of the British Peninsular War, which saw Britain challenge Napoleon’s French forces for control of the Iberian peninsular.

Battle of Corunna (1809)

The battle (also known as the Battle of Elviña) ensured the escape of the British army from Spain boarding ships and fighting a brilliant rearguard, where tragically Sir John Moore was killed at the moment of success.

Battle of Barrosa (1811)

The battle was part of an unsuccessful manoeuvre by an Anglo-Iberian force to break the French siege of Cádiz. During the battle, a single British division defeated two French divisions and captured a sacred regimental eagle.

Battle of Salamanca (1812)

Wellington's army crossed the River Tormes in June and his victory in July over the French army of Marshal Marmont allowed the re-capture of Madrid.

Battle of Borodino (1812)

An especially bloody fight between 130,000 French troops with more than 500 guns and 120,000 Russians with more than 600 guns. The battle saw General Kutuzov’s Russian troops attempt to block Napoleon’s advance on Moscow. A fierce, attritional battle ensued before Kutuzov was eventually forced to retreat. A week later, Napoleon occupied Moscow unopposed and marked the beginning of the end of his conquest.

Battle of Leipzig (1813)

Undoubtedly one of Napoleon’s most significant defeats, this battle inflicted brutally severe losses on the French army and more or less concluded France’s presence in Germany and Poland. Also known as the “Battle of the Nations”, this bloody engagement was fought at the city of Leipzig in Saxony.

Napoleon’s forces were effectively surrounded by 300,000 allied soldiers (including Austrian, Prussian, Russian, and Swedish forces) who converged on the city’s perimeter. It was a crushing defeat for Napoleon who would be forced to abdicate six months later following Paris’ capitulation to the allies.

Battle of Ligny (1815)

The last victory of Napoleon’s military career, Ligny could nonetheless be considered a strategic failure. Though Napoleon’s troops defeated Field Marshal Prince Blucher’s Prussian army, many of the Prussian soldiers survived and joined the Duke of Wellington’s British troops at Waterloo.

Battle of Waterloo (1815)

This battle changed the face of Europe forever. An Anglo-Allied army under the Duke of Wellington faced Napoleon’s expereinced troops in Belgium. With Prussian reinforcements arriving on the French right flank, the combined allies defeated Napoleon. Wellington proclaimed it was “the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life”.

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